I definitely wasn't from an acting family. When I was growing up, I didn't really understand or care about acting until I joined an amateur dramatics group and I couldn't get enough. The thrill of the stage was amazing and I just kept on doing it despite not being from that world. All my friends were just normal, weed-smoking teenagers and I was going to places like a Methodist church hall, rolling round in funny clothes and speaking in funny accents. By the time I was 14 I'd joined the ITV workshop. Fiona Groomes [actress Georgia Groome's mother] really pushed and helped me throughout my teenage years to get me focused on professional acting then by 19 I'd done enough to get an agent.
When I first went on the This is England set, I didn't have a fucking clue. In terms of understanding a film set, I didn't have any idea – I was handing drinks to the costume designer – I just didn't get it. What I did get was the cast were all normal people, they weren't luvvies or even like the amateur dramatic kids I'd been working with. I thought wow, this is a film set, everyone is being very normal and very down to earth and I'm having a great time. It was just a fun, free experience working with all your pals and I didn't know who Shane [Meadows] was, I didn't know any of his work and I didn't understand to what extent how incredible he was until I finished filming. By the time I came back to the TV series, I was very aware of the fucking talent of the man and how big This is England was.
I don't know if I ever want to be a household name. I've had a taste of being recognised and I don't really like it. Growing up in Derby, it's quite a small city, everyone knows everyone's business, you'd know every fucker really but now I don't know if people are staring at me knowing me off the telly or if I owe them a fiver from when I was 14. My life's changed an awful lot, even in the few things that I've done. I've never had any bad experiences, it's always been positive but sometimes it is difficult not having that anonymity.
This is Living is a very complicated play. It's full of different emotions, Tamla [Kari] and I have got to be on the ball, we've got to be so switched on throughout so we don't miss cues or beats or scenes, there's so many quick little glimpses of the past. It's a difficult play but we're eager to do well. It's a story of loss and coming to terms with loss and my character is focused on trying to live life without the love of his life.
I'm trying not to be a theatrical actor on the stage. I always try and keep my performances real, I just make it as fucking believable as I'm sure the writer wanted it to be. If I'm going over the top or not doing enough then I'm aware of it and I'm not proud of myself and I feel like shit so I've always got to keep a full sense of truth really and that's the way I'm doing it.
My dream was to be on a West End stage so I'm doing what I always set out to do. I'm fucking nervous though, I'm ever so scared. When I started rehearsals, I realised what I'd forgotten and what I'd stopped doing and even things regarding character work and hitting the notes of a scene, there's an art to it, there's a craft that the director's got to work so hard for. It's a completely different kettle of fish and I just love it, I'm really enjoying it. I feel as though I'm working hard, I feel like a fucking actor again and I feel proud when I go home at night.
This is Living runs at the Trafalgar Studios from 19 May to 11 June.